As a 21st Century Library Media Specialist, part of what I strive to do is to serve as an instructional technology resource for both educators and learners. In my new position here at New Milford High School, I face the exciting challenge of reaching as many staff members as I could at one time. I threw around many models in my head until I finally found one that seems right for us.
I am proud to announce Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School, a digital badge professional learning platform. The idea behind this platform is to provide professional learning with a pinch of gamification. For some time now, we have been hearing about digital badges and how they can be used to guide, motivate, document and validate formal and informal learning. In recent years, Digital Badges have evolved from what were originally static images, to a tool used for capturing and communicating knowledge. Badges can now contain critical metadata that reflects who is issuing the badge, who has earned the badge, the date upon which it was earned, and any relevant criteria for earning the badge. Digital badges are flexible enough to be able to recognize granular skills that one acquires as well as an individual’s entire learning. I designed the platform in WordPress using a plugin called BadgeOS – through this plugin, I am able to easily define the achievements and organize the badge requirements.
Worlds of Learning @ New Milford High School provides a framework to allow our teachers to earn digital badges through learning about a range of technology tools and applications. The platform has been designed so that its resources will help to prepare our educators to fully leverage the potential for mastering digital age skills embodied in the ISTE NETs Standards for Teachers, as well as the seamless integration of technology addressed in the Common Core Standards. After registering, teachers can earn badges by learning about a tool and then demonstrating how they have successfully integrated it into their instruction. Teachers must register to access all features of the site. Once completing tasks and earning their badges, they can then showcase their knowledge by displaying their microcredentials in a number of possible ways:
- By putting them onto Credly, the free web service for issuing, earning and sharing badges – Credly is a universal way for people to earn and showcase their achievements and badges.
- By putting them on Mozilla OpenBadges Backpack.
- By embedding them into their own sites or blogs and pushed out to their social networks.
- The badges will also of course be showcased on the Worlds of Learning @ NMHS site
As technology convergence and integration continues to increase generally in our society, it is paramount that teachers possess the skills and behaviors of digital age professionals. Educators should be comfortable teaching, working and learning in an increasingly connected global digital society. The real aim of educational technology is to modernize pedagogy and to shape the education of the future. NMHS teachers will be able to take the tools presented in this platform and seamlessly integrate them into meaningful learning that addresses the standards in their respective content areas.
By flipping our professional learning, teachers will receive job-embedded coaching and will be supported by face to face, personalized support. I will be available to collaborate with teachers on implementing these tools into their instruction as well as offering both face-to-face and virtual support and encouragement. This platform was not designed to be used as a formal evaluation tool. Instead the purpose of this platform is to track, share, celebrate and be given credit for informal learning.
Teachers at New Milford High School document their learning journey throughout the school year so that it can be incorporated into Professional Growth Period (PGP) portfolios (that teachers present at their end-of-year evaluation conferences. The PGP, created by our principal Eric Sheninger, was launched in New Milford High School in September of 2011. As a result, every New Milford High School teacher has two to three, forty eight minute periods a week, to engage in growth opportunities of personal interest. Each staff member has to create and present a learning portfolio at his/ her end of year evaluation conference. This learning portfolio articulates how they integrated what was learned during this time into professional practice. The badges teachers that earn will be a part of their year-long action plan goal.
I hope that New Milford High School teachers will be able to benefit greatly from this sustained initiative because of the professional learning flexibility an online platform provides as well as earning microcredentials that document and showcase the skills they have gained by putting their learnings into practice in the classroom. With only a handful of badges available to be earned on the site at the moment, I will be adding to the list considerably all throughout the school year.